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On the Water: Fishing in July — beat the heat and thunderstorms by getting out early

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Jul 7, 2021

While vacationing on Pine Island, Beth Lewis and family of Okeechobee got in a morning of fishing ahead of the thunderstorms. They took home a good mess of mangrove snapper and flounder while fishing in Matlacha Pass with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

As we progress into the heat of summer, fishing both inshore and offshore can still be very good, just prepare for hot days and keep an eye on the weather. Many anglers prefer to get an early start to the day, then get off the water ahead of the mid-day heat and afternoon thunderstorms.  

Inshore, the mangrove snapper bite will continue to heat up. A variety of baits including shrimp, pilchards, herring, small pinfish and cut bait will entice fish around docks, piers, bridges, under deeper mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, sand potholes and rock ledges in and near the passes. Mangrove snapper are one of our tastier fish and fight very hard for their size. They make a great summer target. They are leader and hook shy, if the water is clear, so it’s often necessary to lighten the tackle. Inshore, I generally go with 2 feet or more of 12 to 20-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 circle hook or smaller. Inshore flats are loaded with small schooling baitfish that snapper chow down like candy. 

The best snook and redfish action will come on days with strong tides. They can often be caught together around docks, shorelines and structure around the Gulf passes, as well as oyster bars and shoreline overhangs on the higher tides. Season for spotted seatrout is open throughout Southwest Florida. As the water warms over summer months, some of the better action for trout will come from 4 to 8-foot depths in areas with a grassy or sand/grass mottled bottom. Look for baitfish schools on the grass flats and bar edges and target those areas for seatrout, Spanish mackerel and others. 

Calm summer mornings give us good opportunities to run offshore and target grouper and other species. American red snapper season is open for recreational anglers from June 3 to July 29 for those willing to make the long run offshore. Gag grouper season is open, along with red grouper –expect the larger fish to be in deeper water. Seventy feet is generally a good starting point for grouper, but you may need to run well past a hundred feet for larger fish. If you run out deeper, you may find red snapper and grouper on the same depths.  

To get updated on grouper, snapper, redfish, snook, seatrout and all current fishing regulations for our area, go to www.myfwc.com. 

Closer to shore, wrecks and reefs can be productive with everything from snapper to barracuda to giant goliath grouper. Anchoring up current of structure with a fresh chum bag is preferred. A variety of baits is a good idea as well as an arsenal of rods rigged and ready for light to heavy action.  

For fast action offshore, look for bonito and Spanish mackerel harassing bait schools in depths from 20 to 80 feet. Small silver spoons, mylar jigs and Tuna Jets in various colors can bring instant hookups when trolled or casted around feeding activity. Watch for birds and surface commotion to locate the fish. Public artificial reefs are a good place to begin the search. 

Sharks are another summertime favorite. Varieties of species both large and small are common catches both inshore and off. While they are a nuisance for some, many anglers target them for their fighting ability. Sharks play an important role in our ecosystem; please make every effort to quickly release them unharmed. Every kid loves to catch a shark of any size, and now is a good time, just make sure and do it safely for both the angler and the shark. 

Many anglers continue to target tarpon through the month. A favorite method for many is to catch the afternoon high falling hill tides at Boca Grande and Captiva passes. Small crabs flush through the passes by the thousands and when the bite is on, tarpon are there to slurp them up. This should be the final month with large concentrations of tarpon in the passes. For many, scooping up the small crabs with a long-handled net is more fun than the fishing. 

We have plenty of choices this month both inshore and offshore. As we move into the heat of summer, bring along plenty of drinking water, keep hydrated and pay attention to the weather.

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at www.fishpineisland.com; or via email at gcl2fish@live.com.

Have a safe week and good fishin’.